Tyrone Swoopes finished his sophomore campaign about as poorly as the quarterback position can be played. Following a dazzling 28-7 win at Oklahoma State in which he connected on 24-of-33 throws for 305 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers, Swoopes turned the ball over five times in a 48-10 blowout loss to TCU, then closed the year by accounting for 25 total yards in 30 combined pass/rush attempts plus an interception and a fumble in his own end zone in a 31-7 flattening at the hands of Arkansas in the Texas Bowl.
So it’s no surprise that Charlie Strong is all but begging redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard to push Swoopes for the starting job throughout spring ball, which opens Wednesday for the Longhorns.
“Going into spring practice, we’re going to give them equal reps and give them a chance to go compete against each other,” Strong told ESPN.com.
The easiest path for Texas to return to contention for Big 12 and national titles is for Swoopes to simply turn into the quarterback his potential suggests he can be. Swoopes has the strongest arm of any Texas quarterback in recent memory and has regularly beaten the wide receivers and defensive backs in sprints this winter. The problem for Swoopes has been between the ears, and Strong hopes running with the gazelles can boost his confidence. “When I placed him in that group, he didn’t back away at all,” Strong said. “You see a big guy like that winning most of the races, and he’s beating our skill guys. He didn’t back away at all.”
If not Swoopes at quarterback, Texas has no other option than Heard. The Longhorns saw Zach Gentry decommit in favor of Michigan and missed on a late pursuit of Texas A&M signee Kyler Murray. Texas did sign Kai Locksley and Matthew Merrick last month, but the latter won’t enroll this fall and the former is viewed as a future wide receiver.
With that in mind, when Heard saw his competition run with the skill groups, he followed suit. “When Jerrod saw me move him, he automatically moved on his own,” Strong said. “I turned around and looked and he says, ‘I’m going with the skill guys.'”
Just like Strong had in mind.